The planned Dom Mintoff statue at Castille Square is expected to be replaced by a massive abstract art structure that has been commissioned directly on the instructions of the Office of the Prime Minister, the Times of Malta can reveal.
The monument is said to be about five metres high.
This follows revelations by The Sunday Times of Malta that the original plan to erect a statue of the late premier at Valletta’s revamped square was scrapped by the OPM for undisclosed reasons.
The design of the abstract artwork has been awarded directly by the OPM to architect Valerio Schembri, who is also a ceramist. The direct order did not follow normal competition procedures.
At the same time, sources told this newspaper that another artist, Paul Haber, has been engaged to construct a large model of the maquette proposed by Mr Schembri to be ready for casting.
However, although the model is ready, the OPM has encountered difficulties in casting the structure and has had to postpone its plans to have it in place for November’s Commonwealth summit.
“The model is so huge that the cost of casting the memorial in bronze is prohibitive, so much so that the government would have to fork out over €500,000. This was obviously not planned,” the sources said.
“The government officials, particularly the office of Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar, are now trying to find some sort of alternative. However, no decision has been taken yet and the plans for the memorial’s inauguration had to be postponed.”
The sources described the new abstract structure as “massive” and not particularly in line with the rest of the square’s architecture – it is expected to resemble a glowing flame.
The model is so huge that the costof casting the memorial in bronze is prohibitive
Apart from objections raised by Mr Mintoff’s supporters and family members against scrapping his statue in Castille Square, the controversy has become rife within the artistic community.
In an opinion piece today, sculptor Noel Galea Bason, who, incidentally, made the figurative monument of Mintoff in Cospicua commissioned by the Labour Party, says scrapping the competition for Mintoff’s statue was “a gross injustice.”
“The saga of the Mintoff concept monument is known to a good few people who work in this field and anyone would tell you that it is a comic and troubled one, rife with questionable practices,” Mr Galea Bason writes.
He says the new abstract piece of art “won’t be appreciated by the general public and will cost a lot of taxpayers’ money”.
Efforts made by this newspaper in recent days to obtain information from the OPM on the project were unsuccessful. Both the Prime Minister’s spokesman and the Office of the Permanent Secretary are refusing to reply to questions.
The Times of Malta asked Mr Cutajar to explain why the government scrapped the planned statue of Mr Mintoff, which renowned artist Alfred Camilleri Cauchi was set to sculpt after winning a competition in December 2013.
The OPM was asked to provide this newspaper with the design of the memorial replacing the statue, its costs and the name of the commissioned artist, among other questions. A spokesman for the Prime Minster would only say “the whole Castille project incorporates a Mintoff monument, which is currently in a very advanced design finalisation stage”.
On his part, Mr Cutajar is refusing to grant this newspaper an interview.
Yana Mintoff, one of Mr Mintoff’s daughters, expressed surprise this week at the decision to scrap having her father’s statue at Castille and said she had been kept in the dark over this decision.
Dr Mintoff said she had already agreed with, and given her family’s approval of, the statue commissioned by Mr Camilleri Cauchi.
Dr Mintoff also revealed that OPM officials had already shown her the place where the statue of her father would be placed in Castille Square.